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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
BBC defends Ross pay and conduct
David Cameron and Jonathan Ross
Cameron was asked if he'd thought about Lady Thatcher "in stockings"
The BBC's director general has defended the conduct and salary of Jonathan Ross after criticism of the presenter's recent TV interview with David Cameron.

Mark Thompson said he did not believe any BBC guidelines were broken when Ross asked the Tory leader if he had ever fantasised over Lady Thatcher.

He claimed Ross was "outstanding" and to have "the very best people on the BBC" meant appropriately high salaries.

He said stars gave "enormous enjoyment" and represented good financial value.

The corporation received 360 complaints in the week after Mr Cameron appeared on BBC One's Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.

Former Conservative minister Lord Tebbit branded the interview "obscene", though Ross defended himself, maintaining he had asked "a perfectly valid question".

'Clear expectation'

Mr Thompson said only 11 complaints had been sent to the BBC before there was "significant press campaigning on the subject".

He added the transmission time of 2335 BST was also a factor.

Mark Thompson
Were Jonathan to leave the BBC, you would have headlines about that fact and I think our licence fee payers would be disappointed
Mark Thompson

"We take the issue of the watershed and the protection of children and younger audiences very seriously.

"There is a significant difference between broadcasting that takes places pre-nine o'clock in an environment where it is likely children and young people will be watching or listening, and programming which is broadcast late at night post-watershed and where audiences have a clear expectation of tone and style," he said.

Ross was reported last month to have signed a three-year deal with the BBC valued at 18m.

However, the corporation would neither confirm this, nor comment on stories suggesting he earned 540,000 a year for his weekly three-hour Saturday show on BBC Radio 2.

'Very best people'

"The BBC has always had to go into the market for key broadcasting talent. Our licence fee payers want the very best people on the BBC," Mr Thompson said.

"Were Jonathan to leave the BBC, you would have headlines about that fact and I think our licence fee payers would be disappointed.

"We know amongst key talent - and we've had recent examples - that other broadcasters are offering key talent large sums.

"There are plenty of recent examples of talent deciding to stay at the BBC even when they have been offered more by other broadcasters."

Mr Thompson claimed the BBC's top stars represented "good value", although "clearly sometimes the amounts of money involved seem very large, compared to what other people earn".

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